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Ultracycling: The sport of the Race across America athletes and Paris-Brest-Paris randonneurs

Ultracycling is a discipline in cycling that is about riding ultra-long distances on a bike. Unlike ultra running or ultra triathlon, there is no definition of the length of the route. Well-known ultracycling competitions such as the Race across America have a length of approx. 5,000 kilometers.

What is ultracycling?

Compared to big cycling tours like the Tour de France, the often thousands of kilometers long distances in ultra-distance competitions are not divided into stages. The start usually takes place as a single start and the race time continues nonstop until the athlete has reached the finish. Only so-called 'time stations' mark points on the route at which intermediate times are taken. Ultracycling competitions are difficult to compare because the events often differ greatly in terms of rules and routes. Basically, however, it is a matter of long-distance bike rides, in which every athlete can set their own speed, breaks and, if necessary, sleep breaks.

"Do not compare .. means that ultracycling competitions cannot be compared"

Ultra bike races usually take place on public roads. In so-called 'supported' competitions, the athletes are accompanied by a support vehicle in which a support team ensures that there is idle time to keep them low and to provide the athletes with food and clothing. Depending on the strategy, the support team takes on other tasks such as navigation or making racing strategy decisions. 'Supportet' competitions are often held in parallel in the solo and team categories, with several athletes forming a team in the team category.

"Ultra-cycling is like the Tour de France ridden non-stop"

In 'nonsupportet' competitions the athletes are on their own. Slipstream riding is allowed in most of these competitions, which is often not the case in 'supported' competitions. Depending on the competition, it is frowned upon or even forbidden by the rules to accept outside support. 'Nonsupportet' competitions are often held as so-called 'brevets', for which there is no official result list. In addition to a maximum time specification, there is also a minimum time specification so that the certification is expressly not given the character of a race.

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Ultracycling Race across America Feeling

Which ultra-cycling races are famous?

Many ultracycling races are officially announced by the WUCA (World Ultra Cycling Association). However, there are also other official events that are not advertised by the WUCA and still have high priority. Basically, the effort behind a 'supported' competition is always very high. 'Nonsupportet' events are often advertised through the (sub-)organizations of the Audax-Randonneurs. Since neither a team nor a large financial effort is required for this, the effort for a 'nonsupported' competition is much lower.

Ultra Cycling Rennen Navigation

What challenges does ultracycling bring with it?

Preparing for an ultracycling race not only requires a lot of training, but also organizational skills. While you are just at the start in most sports, putting together a strong team, organizing the logistics and financing the projects is a major challenge, especially in 'supported' ultracycling competitions. Suitable support vehicles must be found, requirements from the rules of the respective race must be met and the travel planning for the entire support team must be thought through.

"At some point you will get to the point where only your mind counts"

Ultracycling races often cross or circle entire countries or continents. During the race, different climatic zones are crossed in some races and the athletes have to deal with both heat and cold in the race. There are days when it goes straight for a thousand kilometers and there are other days when it goes through the mountains all day. Bad roads, heavy traffic and horrible weather conditions can create additional challenges. The route can change during the race due to roadworks or flooding, which makes navigation difficult.

"Sitting on the saddle - The smallest problem."

For many athletes, the enormous lack of sleep in ultracycling is the biggest challenge. A lack of sleep often leads to hallucinations or loss of orientation. The head sometimes plays a bigger role in the race than physical fitness. Defects, improvisation and physical problems can cause mental exhaustion. In addition, there is usually no shower or a decent toilet in the race. With the right diet, great increases in performance can be achieved.

Ultra Cycling Race in the Alps

Why do athletes participate in ultracycling competitions?

Many ultracycling athletes write about pushing boundaries and realizing their dreams. Basically, many people ask themselves whether it is possible to reach a goal, despite the many challenges that an ultracycling race brings with it. For many, it is less about gaining respect from others, but more about experiencing for yourself what your own body and mind are capable of. The idea that it is possible to achieve a great athletic goal with millions of simple pedal strokes of the crank makes ultra-distance seem possible.

"Is that possible or is it not possible?"

ADuring a ultra-distance, things happen in the head, in the body and possibly in the team that are unusual for normal. You feel that you are alive when the cold gnaws at your body in the morning and the sun burns on the asphalt in the afternoon. The sight of natural forces triggers feelings of happiness. You are one with the elements. You have no cell phone and no internet. You have this deep connection to the environment, but also to yourself. There may be special interpersonal moments in the support team or with people along the way. Ultra cycling races are a way to experience yourself.

"At the Superbrevet Paris-Brest-Paris, people along the route give away waffles to the randonneurs after more than 1,000 kilometers. The best waffles which are out there."

While riding a bike is a very monotonous task, organizing and planning an ultra-cycling project is very complex. An ultra-cycling project can be designed very differently. Those who do 'nonsupported' competitions tend to concentrate more on cycling, whereas 'supported' competitions are about training social skills in addition to athletic performance by preparing a team, finding sponsors or planning team processes.

Ultracycling Knowledge

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